An investigation will be conducted on Springfield Police after a protest in the Thurston neighborhood led to an altercation with supporters of Black Unity last Wednesday.
Many community members have questions about SPD’s use of force. In videos, officers are shown hitting unarmed protesters with batons, using tasers, as well as punching at least two protesters in the head and neck. According to SPD Sgt. David Grice, officers tried to arrest people after some protesters began moving the police barricade and saying they will push through officers.
Grice said police were responding to protesters throwing objects at officers, biting them, and trying to take their weapons.
“If someone's trying to take a weapon from me, I'm going to fight for my life for that thing,” said Grice. “If someone's trying to take a baton or a taser or my gun from me, that changes the dynamic of the interaction with the person who's trying to take that from you.”
One of Black Unity’s leaders, Martin Allums, spoke out about the violent altercation with SPD last week.
SPD said the blockade was set up to prevent protesters from going onto major roads, which could be dangerous. But Allums said the group wasn’t going toward the 126-highway, and believes SPD used excessive force when taking protesters into custody.
“If the officers had just talked to us to understand where we were coming from— answer our questions and create a dialogue so that we could explain to them that we weren't going to whatever highway they thought we were going to,” said Allums. “That we were just going down to a school, get out of the area, drop some of the tensions, do our speeches, and leave—it would have been okay. But the officers didn't want to talk.”
Springfield Mayor Christine Lundberg, said in a statement that the investigation and review of SPD actions will be conducted by an outside agency.
Black Unity will also hold its first protest Saturday since their last march.
Allums had a broken nose and a concussion after the event. But he said the injuries people in the group sustained late last month will not stop them from protesting.
“The more we let these people beat us down, beat us back, oppress us—the more they're going to feel like that this is what they need to do,” said Allums. “And this is okay. And at some point we have to tell them no. Regardless of whether I have a concussion, a broken hand, broken arm—I'm still going to be out there. I'm still going to do what I need to do to make sure I can thrive and to make sure that my people see liberation.”
Saturday’s protest will start at noon at the Federal Courthouse in Eugene, and will be held in partnership with the Eugene Pride Organization.